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Including Limitations in News Coverage of Cancer Research: Effects of News Hedging on Fatalism, Medical Skepticism, Patient Trust, and Backlash

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Past research has demonstrated that news coverage of cancer research, and scientific research generally, rarely contains discourse-based hedging, including caveats, limitations, and uncertainties. In a multiple message experiment (k = 4 news stories, N = 1082), the authors examined whether hedging shaped the perceptions of news consumers. The results revealed that participants were significantly less fatalistic about cancer (p = .039) and marginally less prone to nutritional backlash (p = .056) after exposure to hedged articles. Participants exposed to articles mentioning a second researcher (unaffiliated with the present study) exhibited greater trust in medical professions (p = .001). The findings provide additional support for the inclusion of discourse-based hedging in cancer news coverage and suggest that news consumers will use scientific uncertainty in illness representations.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Communication, and Oncological Sciences Center, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA 2: Department of Communication, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA

Publication date: May 1, 2011

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